I’m sure you’ve heard this cliché saying before, but in the music industry, it is one of the most important statements made. Even more so for the independent artist, it is important to present our material in a professional way that meets (or in some cases exceeds) industry standards.
As a manager, I am given numerous demos and CD projects from artists. In a way, I understand how A&Rs and record labels must feel when receiving countless number of submissions. It may sound bad, but how your music is presented (how the actual disc is packaged) is the first judgment that will take place. Without even hearing your music, it will be judged on how it looks. And unfortunately for many, the buck stops there. Their demo is thrown in a pile with all of the others, not because the music was horrible, but because the packaging was not appealing.
Just as much as music is about artistic expression, it is also about business. Your music is a business and should be treated as such. So, in business, what is the first step in order to help people notice and recognize you? The answer is your brand. Even as a musician, you need to create a brand(or logo) for yourself that people can easily identify. It does not have to be a symbol. It can be a simple text logo, but something needs to be created that identifies you. A musician needs to take care in all graphic designs to make sure it is visually appealing. Slapping a photo on top of a CD does not equate an album cover. Thought needs to be taken into color scheme, font type, logo placement, etc.
Some people go so far as to use creative marketing tactics to package their music. One of the most successful examples of this was when Sean (at that time “Puff Daddy”) Combs packaged Bad Boy Entertainment’s rappers, The Notorious B.I.G. and Craig Mack in a McDonald’s themed maxi single called the “B.I.G. Mack.” No one had ever seen music packaged like this before. It was unforgettable and undeniable. This example could be argued that it was a cheap gimmick, but it was a marketing tactic that caught the attention of radio programmers that helped to push Bad Boy’s music to the forefront of the music scene. 

Consider the opposite of this argument. Think of the many artists whose talent may be questionable, but they were marketed (or presented) well, which led to their success. A good example of this is Jennifer Lopez. While she is an amazing actress and dancer, she is a mediocre singer at best in my opinion. But, she has sold millions of albums.
Don’t let your talent go unnoticed simply because you did not invest in proper presentation, packaging and representation for yourself. It is important to find someone who can speak for you. Every musician/band needs someone who can deliver your “elevator speech” effectively. If you only had about 10 seconds to explain who you are and the sound of your music, could you do it? If not, place that at the top of your to-do list.
Finally, learn the lingo of your industry. Success is when preparation and opportunity meet. Once your well-presented product has caught the attention of a manager, agent, record label or new listeners, you need to be able to speak intelligently about yourself and your product.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. How much of an effect do you think proper packaging has on your music? 

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